United’s new PointsPlus upgrade program – which replaces regional and global confirmed upgrade certificates – is scheduled to launch on Wednesday.
Overnight on Tuesday nights the ability to confirm upgrades with existing regional and global certificates will be frozen in preparation for this launch. Then upgrades should re-open on Wednesday with a bank of points replacing existing upgrade certificates, and the ability to use those points in a more granular manner.
United shares these details,
Earlier this fall we announced PlusPoints, a brand new way to manage upgrade benefits for our Premier members giving them more flexibility and more options to use upgrade benefits. Overnight on December 3 we will be converting Regional Premier Upgrades and Global Premier Upgrades to PlusPoints, during which time there will be a brief hold on requesting upgrades or making changes to reservations that are being converted. We are reaching out to our customers to let them know ahead of time so they can make any travel changes, and our team is working to ensure the conversions go as smoothly as possible.
On December 4, customers will have a bank of PlusPoints in their accounts that they can use to request upgrades across United’s network. As a reminder, a few of the exciting updates customers will have once PlusPoints are live include:
• Members will be able to upgrade from Economy to Premium Plus and from Premium Plus to Polaris for the value of less than 1 Global Premier Upgrade
• Platinum members will be able to upgrade from Economy to Polaris in any region
• 1K members will be able to upgrade from discounted Economy to Polaris business class
We look forward to introducing PlusPoints and giving our customers more ways and more chances to use their upgrades.
The positive here is both greater flexibility – someone who only had regional upgrades can combine those for an international long haul upgrade – as well as that United will continue to allow upgrades from coach to business class (skipping premium economy). United will even allow members to spend more points to be able to upgrade internationally from any fare (something American and Delta already permit, without spending ‘extra). Currently members often buy a lottery ticket, a more expensive fare than they’d have to buy in order to have the chance of an upgrade. That’ll no longer be required, but at a cost greater than one current Global Premier Upgrade.
The downside is that this new granularity of pricing for upgrades will make it easier to modestly devalue the upgrade program, awarding fewer upgrades, increasing the requirements to earn upgrades, or increasing the number of PlusPoints required for a given upgrade.